South Carolina Episcopalians

An Independent Journal of News & Commentary for Anglicans

not affiliated with ACNA, the Episcopal Church or its dioceses

December 13, 2018

Breakaways Lukewarm Defense of Lawrence's "False Advertising Offers Nothing New, while Ignoring Courtroom Defeats

At the heart of the matter is ownership of the corporate entity known as "The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina"... and, uh, yes that question has already been decided by state, Federal, and U.S Supreme courts


In yet another act of obstruction, Mark Lawrence and his remaining followers today filed a request for summary judgment with Federal Judge Richard Gergel asking that he dismiss the 2013 false advertising lawsuit brought against them by the legitimate bishop of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina.  


Lawyers for the rightful bishop, The Rt. Rev. Skip Adams, say that Lawrence has left the Episcopal Church, but continues to fraudulently hold himself out as "an Episcopal bishop." Adams claims the resulting confusion has hindered his work and that of the Church and its parishes.  Those parishes once-loyal to Lawrence have aided in his impersonation, including advertising themselves as "Episcopal."


Lawrence's insistence on acting like he is the leader of a "diocese" has proven costly for the Church.   He has apparently been using money from trust funds established for the work for the Church in South Carolina to underwrite his schism, and apparently living nearly rent free in the residence of the legitimate Bishop of South Carolina and using the Church's diocesan headquarters in downtown Charleston for free.   


Last year Lawrence's "diocese" ran up an unheard of deficit of over $250,000, owing mostly to shoveling money in the so-called "Anglican Church of North America," a religious group not recognized by the Anglican Communion.


The Lawrencians say that Adams doesn't have a case, which is the same thing Adams' attorneys said about them earlier in the week in their request for summary judgment.


Who's right? 


The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled in August 2017 that the "Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina" is part of the Episcopal Church.  Lawrence appealed that ruling, but last June the U.S. Supreme Court rejected it, allowing it to ruling to stand as precedent for future cases in South Carolina. 


If there is any remaining doubt in Gergel's mind, he can just walk down the hall from his office and ask his colleague, Judge Michael Duffy, about an earlier case four years ago in which he ruled that the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, led by Bishop Adams, is the true "Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina."


Corporate Marks


At the heart of this case is the desire of the Church to enjoin Mark Lawrence from using the corporate marks, trademarks, or service marks of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina.  These marks can be any combination of words, seals, symbols or images  that can represent or be publicly identified with a corporation.  The Diocesan seal would be an example.  So would the words, "Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina."


Church lawyers are asking Gergel to insure that Lawrence and his followers refrain from using marks associated with the Episcopal Church or its diocese in eastern South Carolina.   Because other courts have ruled that the Lawrencians are not the Diocese of South Carolina,  Church lawyers are arguing that the corporate marks of the Diocese are their property and Lawrence is violating a Federal law called the Lanham Act by using them.


The corporate marks of the real Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, led by Adams, were awarded to the Lawrencians by Circuit Judge Diane Goodstein in 2013.  Goodstein proved the nation's Founding Fathers knew what they were doing when they included in the nation's Constitution protection for churches from bumbling by secular courts.


Gergel has scheduled a trial on Adams' lawsuit for March 2019.  At that point, it will have been languishing in Federal Court for five-and-a-half years.

Read the Lawrence press release here